Two companies of only female officers will be created for the first time in the Border Police, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Friday.
According to the report, the decision to establish the units was made at a recent meeting between IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and police chief Kobi Shabtai.
The officers will reportedly serve mainly along the border of the West Bank, in the section from the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin and northwards, tasked with preventing terror and crime in the area.
The decision to form the companies was reportedly made due to a high level of interest from women wishing to serve in the Border Police, and the new units were set to start activities “in the near future.”
Currently, most positions in the military are open to both men and women, save for infantry brigades, armored brigades, submarines, certain elite reconnaissance units, and a small number of other positions.
There are also fully integrated mixed-gender combat units such as the Caracal and Bardelas battalions, which are tasked with protecting Israel’s border with Egypt and Jordan, respectively, as well as artillery and search-and-rescue units, which are considered light infantry.
The increase in the number of women in combat units — a 250% rise in the past six years — has not been without criticism, as conservative voices in Israel have accused the military of endangering national security by lowering standards in order to include women to appease progressive demands of gender equality. The IDF has rebuffed those allegations, saying that women are serving in those combat roles because they are needed in them, not due to a liberal agenda.
Facing a lawsuit by four female recruits demanding full gender integration, the military announced last year that it was forming a committee led by Ground Forces commander Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick to consider such a move.
Kohavi announced Monday that he intends to put forward a plan that would see the number of female senior officers rise by 50 percent within the next five years, which would have been a bolder objective had the already low number of promotions of female officers for top positions not fallen dramatically in recent years.
In his more than two years as chief of staff, Kohavi has promoted no women to the rank of major general and only one — who was tapped to serve as the chief intelligence officer of the Central Command — to the rank of brigadier general. According to a recent Haaretz tally, of the nearly 200 officers promoted to the rank of colonel under Kohavi, 19 have been women.
There are currently no female major generals in the IDF, nor have there been since 2014, when the only one so far — Maj. Gen. (res.) Orna Barbivai — retired from the military. There are also only six female brigadier generals, some of whom have not actually received their ranks officially, but — for bureaucratic reasons — are only permitted to wear them ceremonially, as their positions demand them.
Kohavi’s announcement came on International Women’s Day, when the military often rolls out such initiatives. The military said the chief of staff’s plan would be put together within the next three months.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.